Once upon a time, there were two dogs who worked as Shepherds. They both protected the sheep and herded them. Unfortunately, they found that their shapes were not conducive to the trust of the sheep. Because they both looked like wolves, the sheep were afraid of them both. They realized that if they were to protect the sheep properly, at least one of them would have to change his appearance. He went to a transformation specialist and asked to be turned into a sheep, so as to be accepted by the flock. The specialist realized that the dog could not do his job if he were not a dog, so he turned him into a sheep who was still 100% dog. Thus, the sheepdog came to be.
What do you all think of today's bulletin cover? Those of you who have been here for any length of time know that I frequently depict Jesus as a sheep. I think I'm the only one who ever does that. Most people who draw a furry Jesus choose to depict Him as a lion. There's nothing wrong with that, really, since He IS the lion of Judah. No doubt CS Lewis made that title very popular. However, the lamb symbol is an important one for helping us understand the nature of Christ. It is also the animal symbol he chose to use Himself.
First of all, when sheep or lambs are used as a metaphor in the bible, to whom do they usually refer? to us, of course. In John 21:15, Jesus tells Peter "feed My lambs". In Psalm 23, David compares himself to a sheep and God to a shepherd. Peter and Luke refer to the church as "The Flock". In John 10, Jesus speaks of the gentile believers as His "sheep not of this fold". We are the sheep, and Jesus is the shepherd. Like the sheepdog, Jesus became one of us so that He could both serve us and bring us closer to Himself. Yet just as the sheepdog remained 100% dog even though he took on the form of a sheep, so Jesus remained 100% God when He became a man. This is good news for us, because the sheep analogy is fitting in another way. Sheep are stupid. Domesticated herbivores tend to lack intelligence, and sheep are no exception. If one sheep falls off of a cliff, the whole herd is likely to follow him right off the edge. Jesus saves us from ourselves by being the sheep with the mind of a shepherd. When we follow Him, there are no cliffs in our future. Of course, the sheepdog only became a sheep in appearance, and that is where the metaphor breaks down. Jesus actually became one of us sheep. He is our Father and brother.
Another reason the lamb is appropriate as a symbol for Jesus is because it is a clean animal. Perhaps not in the literal sense, but it is a kosher animal. The wool of a white sheep is a symbol of purity. Sheep are also gentle creatures. Yes, they may get rough with one another. All animals do that. But have you ever heard of someone getting eaten by a ravenous ram? It's not often that you hear about a wild ewe attaching a hiker who wandered to close to her lambs. Sheep are capable of violence. That's why they have horns, but under normal circumstances, there is no reason to fear a sheep. Jesus, likewise, is more than capable of violence. He demonstrated this clearly in the Court of the Gentiles. But to those who love Him, Jesus offers no reason for terror.
Perhaps the most approprite reason of all to depict Jesus as a sheep is because Jesus is our passover lamb. The lamb was the traditional passover sacrifice. Its blood, when placed upon the door of the house during the first Passover, served as a sign to the angel of Death that this house was under God's protection. Moreover, those who were protected by the blood of the lamb were dressed in travelling clothes, because when morning came, they were to go free, their 400 years of slavery at an abrupt end. So Jesus is the final sacrifice. His blood has the power to rescue from death and Hell. Those who are saved by His blood are released from bondage to sin. But there is one other element to consider. The passover lamb was not picked out of the flock on Passover eve every year. It was kept at the house. That lamb became part of the household. So, too, is Jesus part of our family when we accept Him. Fortunately for us, death cannot claim Him as it did the passover lamb, and we will remain part of Jesus' family forever.
There's one final reason the sheep metaphor is appropriate. This may be kind of gruesome to some, but the application is beautiful. When a lamb dies, it is a tragic thing, but the death of a lamb may save another lamb. If this happens and there is another lamb who has been orphaned, the shephard will quickly take the hide from the dead lamb and use it to cover the orphan. The mother of the dead lamb then looks at the orphan and sees her own son or daughter, and adopts them. Because Jesus died for us, we are covered in His likeness. When Yaweh looks at us, he doesn't see the pathetic, orphaned, godless creatures we once were, but He sees the righteousness of His only begotten Son. God is not fooled in any way, yet because of this covering, God adopts us as His own sons. Yes, sons, because every one of us become his heirs, even the girls.
Jesus' story is the greatest transformation story ever told. He is the shepherd who became one of the sheep. So when you see a picture like the one on today's bulletin cover, there's no need to think the artist silly, and certainly not blasphemous. Just look at it and remember how much Jesus loves you. remember also that as in any good TF story, Jesus' basic inner nature has not changed. He is still our shepherd even though he is one of us sheep. When we follow Him, our own good will result.
If you have not accepted Jesus as your savior, there is no time like the present to come under the direction and protection of this wise shepherd/sheep, and to allow His blood to be your atoning sacrifice, saving you from Hell for everlasting life.
Today’s readings: Acts 8:32
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.